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£5 million gift to create the Hodge Centre for Translational Neuroscience

27 October 2022

Professor Jeremy Hall
Professor Jeremy Hall

The Hodge Foundation has awarded £5 million to Cardiff University to establish the Hodge Centre for Translational Neuroscience.

The new Centre will focus on the development of innovative new treatments for mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and severe depression.

These conditions have a devastating effect on the lives of patients, often impacting family or work life, making it harder to keep a job or home.

Taking research to the next level

Cardiff University has already played a leading role in understanding genetic risk for conditions such as schizophrenia and depression. The latest findings show us “where to look” in the brain to understand the changes contributing to mental illness and provide opportunities for new therapeutic strategies. The Hodge Centre for Translational Neuroscience will take this research to the next level, and work on developing projects that have the potential to contribute to real-world impact for patients.

The new Centre will forge close links with partners in industry, the NHS and other organisations to improve collaboration, and accelerate the pace at which research is translated into treatments. The Centre will take the latest research findings from the University’s world-class neuroscience researchers and use them to develop new drugs and therapies for severe mental health conditions.

Over five years, the Centre will provide 18 fully funded PhD scholarships. The Hodge PhD Scholarship programme will train and nurture the brightest young researchers in the skills needed to address the complex problem of brain disorders. To manage a PhD Scholarship programme of this scale, Dr Kerrie Thomas has been appointed as PhD Programme Director. The funding will also provide a Lecturer in Cellular Psychiatry and a Specialist Technician, as well as a ‘talent fund’ open to early career researchers.

The virtual Centre will be directed by Professor Jeremy Hall, Director of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute, who previously led the Hodge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Immunology. A new University Chair, the ‘Hodge Professorship of Psychiatry’, will be created to ensure the continuation and legacy of the Centre’s work. As the inaugural Chair, Professor Hall will deliver the Centre’s mission for many years to come.

“We are extremely grateful to the Hodge Foundation for their generous donation,” said Professor Jeremy Hall, Director of the new Centre.

“Whilst there have been significant advances in recent years, including innovative work right here in Cardiff, research into understanding mental health conditions in the UK is chronically underfunded. This fundamental lack of knowledge has held back the development of effective therapeutic strategies, and current treatments have limited efficacy and significant side effects.

“The Hodge Centre for Translational Neuroscience will allow us to further our understanding of severe mental health conditions, building on the world-class research that’s already taking place in Cardiff. The Centre will also prioritise the development of key external partnerships to translate our findings into real world impact. This gift will help unlock the potential of our recent discoveries and give us the tools, and exceptional minds needed, to help the patients who need it, as soon as possible.”

This new commitment builds on the University’s longstanding relationship with the Hodge Foundation. The Foundation was originally set up by Sir Julian Hodge, and through grants, supports charitable projects that have the potential to help those most in need.

Karen Hodge, Trustee of the Hodge Foundation said: “We’re so proud to be supporting this significant next phase of neuroscience research at Cardiff University, with our largest gift to date. We know the impact of previous grants to the University and the discoveries that have come out of this relationship, so we are very much looking forward to seeing the Hodge Centre for Translational Neuroscience come to life. The Foundation is committed to improving the treatment available to those affected by mental illness and we recognise that this will only become possible by supporting world-leading research.”

The Centre will focus on new treatments for some of the most misunderstood mental health conditions, which are still subject to much stigma and are often misdiagnosed.

‘A significant step forward’

Alan Meudell from Ystrad Mynach, a patient representative on previous Cardiff University mental health treatment studies, and public and patient involvement champion, welcomed the new Centre.

In 2000 he was diagnosed with clinical depression, but after many years fighting for the correct diagnosis, he was subsequently re-diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Alan said:

“When I first went to my GP, they offered to section me. I saw many different health practitioners and it took a long time to get the right diagnosis, the right medication, and get my condition stabilised. During that time, I was out of work and my relationship broke down.

“I now work to involve patients more in research and in trials, but I know it can still be decades before these treatments are widely available. Taking research and getting it into the real world so that it has benefit to people is so important. The fact that this new Centre will help get new, more advanced treatments into the hands of patients more quickly is a significant step forward.

“I’ve come to terms that my mental health condition is a part of who I am. But my hope is that others won’t have to struggle and lose years of their life like I did.”

The Hodge Centre for Translational Neuroscience will be based in the Hadyn Ellis building, home to the University’s Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute, hosted within the Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences. It sits in the heart of the University’s Innovation Campus - a thriving research environment with world class facilities, where researchers are tackling the grand challenges of our time.

Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor welcomed the gift, one of the largest in the University’s history: “I’m so pleased that our longstanding partnership with the Hodge Foundation will continue to underpin life-changing neuroscience research. Our world-leading experts in neuroscience mean that Cardiff University is uniquely well placed to make real progress in this vital area. By investing in the brightest young minds, the Hodge Foundation is creating a legacy of better treatment for some of the most challenging mental health conditions.”

Gifts such as these from the Hodge Foundation, as well as those from generous individuals and organisations, help Cardiff University to fund world-leading research, foster innovation, and provide outstanding student support services. Find out more about supporting research at Cardiff University

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